Make Your Summer Bouquets Last Longer With These Tips


One of the true delights in the garden is surprising my better half with flowers out of the garden. There’s something quite lovely as the smile grows across her face as she discovers I’ve brought her something new and different, or fragrant or in her favorite color or just overwhelmingly bountiful.

As I write this:

I’m already planning on the bouquet that will greet her tonight when she comes home. There are some wonderful blue bachelor buttons out in the cutting garden and the white iris are in full bloom. Hmm – fragrant whites set off by scads of blue– that should get me some “points.”

There are a few tips that gardeners should follow when collecting flowers in the garden.If you do these things, you’re almost guaranteed to get a great bouquet. Anything else you get is up to you.
Cut the flowers in the garden and immediately take them into the house for “conditioning”

What’s Conditioning?

Condition the flowers by cutting the stems on a diagonal cut under water.

So, you cut them in the garden and take them to the kitchen sink where you make your conditioning, underwater cut. Cutting them underwater stops air from getting to the stem and stopping the flow of water up to the bloom.

Cutting on a diagonal increases the surface area from which the flowers can take a drink and absorb water up into the stem.Once you have made the cut under water, immediately move the stem to the water-filled vase.Do not allow the cut end to dry out for even a second.

Remove All Underwater Foliage (only the stems there)

Remove all foliage that will be underwater. Any foliage that is underwater will tend to rot and when this happens, the bacteria get established in the water and reduce the bloom time of the hard-earned bouquet.

What About Floral Preservative

Floral preservative is good stuff for flowers. It contains anti-bacterial water conditioners along with flower food and acidifying agents. If you have it, use it. If you don’t have it – plan on changing the water daily (at the least every second to third day) to reduce the bacterial counts. When you change the water, do snip a short bit off the end of each stem underwater again – this will really extend the life of the cut flower.

There’s a ton of “information” online with hundreds of recipes to preserve your cut flowers. Frankly, if you change the water daily, you’ll have a good a performance as if you used a witches brew of soft drinks, aspirin, and a hundred different things.

Design It A Bit Beforehand

If you can manage it, decide where you’re going to put your creation before you cut the flowers. Also, figure out the vase you’re going to use. This makes things somewhat easier – if you have a tall thin vase, you can’t overload it with really tall masses of flowers or the darn thing will tip over and you’ll have to clean up the water.

Been there, done that. Having said that, I rarely manage to plan this far ahead. A word to the wise is rarely good enough when it comes to cut flowers. I note that old jam jars and peanut butter jars work well but the yogurt containers are too light and wide-mouthed to hold up a good bouquet.

If you have to cut one of those really tall arrangements, don’t insist on placing it on the dining room table during dinner. Nobody can see through it. The old rule of thumb was that one-third of the height should be the vase and two thirds the flowers.I’m reliably told that designers ignore this rule now but our grandmothers would never have.

You choose – modern designers or your grandmother.

Get The Vase The Right Size

One tip I will suggest you follow is to make sure the vase is the appropriate size for the flower.For example, if you try to force a single gladiola bloom into one of those tall, thin rose-bud vase thingies, you’ll find you have to water the darn glad every hour on the hour or it will wilt.

Ensure your vase contains enough water for at least 24 hours. 

The corollary to this is not to squeeze so many flowers into a vase that there is no air space between the stems.This squeezing also supports bacterial growth and shortens flower life.

Now I know that every reader is a designer at heart and doesn’t need to get instructions from me. However, for those non-designers reading this column, let me make a few suggestions.

  • If you have a tall flower such as a delphinium, snapdragon or gladiola, use a tall vase.
  • The lines of the flowers should be extended by the long lines of the vase. Short, dumpy vases make the tall flowers look out of proportion.
  • On the other hand, if you have a wild bunch of varied height flowers, use one of the shorter vases with a bulbous bottom or heavier bottom to allow flowers to appear wider and full in the arrangement.

Having said all that, the flowers and the thought are the thing here. I’ve never had a complaint when I bring in cut flowers no matter if I use an old mason jar to hold them.

Places To Avoid Putting Cut Flowers

The last thing I’ll leave you with is that where you place the flowers does shorten or extend their life-span.

Avoid drafty, too-warm places or next to the air-conditioning inlet or the top of appliances such as televisions. Any place that has heat or sucks moisture out of the bloom is to be avoided.

After all, you went to all the trouble to cut them, design them and vase them; you had better make their effect last as long as you can.

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